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Explain To Me Why My Boston Butt Is Tough, Please.

Okay, I admit it. I have a problem cooking meat properly and I've convinced myself I can't. I can cook meat when you have things like ground beef that you brown for say, a pasta sauce but make a hamburger...no. I rarely cook chicken at home because I'm always afraid it is not going to be done. In fact, I'm the queen of standing under the bright light over my sink and inspecting chicken, pork and turkey for any sign of pink. But I'm working hard to overcome this block. So today I decided I'd make a Boston Butt in the oven. I came home with one that weighed 3.76 pounds. I read the instructions on the package AND called my Dad (a great cook) for advice. I preheated the oven to 350 degrees, put a little olive oil on top of the meat then seasoned it, I turned it over and put it into a shallow baking dish. I oiled and seasoned the other side. My Dad said to put some water in the dish but the instructions said not to. I decided to put water in the dish because, well, it seemed like a good idea. Then I put it in the oven to cook for 25 mins/pound. I did the math and everything to figure out how long that would be. :) BUt here may be my downfall. The instructions said to put it in the oven UNCOVERED but my Dad said to COVER it. I left it uncovered. I cooked it for the required time, took it out and let it rest for about 15 minutes. Then, because I wanted to pull it apart for what I will call BBQ (I made a sauce that turned out good), I dug into it. It seemed tough. It was. I worked at it and pulled it apart with the help of a knife. THEN part of it was pink. Toward the middle of the thing. I kept thinking about how long it had been in the oven and it should be done but I can't bring myself to eat pork that looks undercooked. SO I avoided that part. I put the shredded pieces in a bowl and poured a little of the liquid that was in the baking dish on top of the meat to kind of moisten it a bit. I served myself and found the meat to be tough and under-seasoned. I am disappointed. I ate it and I have the leftovers in the fridge and I'll finish it up but what is the deal? Why can't I cook meat? Be gentle with me. I'm trying. I want to understand. I guess I just don't get meat cookery.

Thanks in advance for any help.

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  1. Your butt was just not cooked as low and slow and long as it needed to be for pulled type pork. That is a big piece of meat as in it is like a soccerball and not a loaf pan (bear with me)..... As a really simple method you could do it either in the crockpot for many hours (google pulled pork in crockpot) or even in the oven covered. Use a rub or just BBQ sauce. 325 or even 300 in the oven would probably take 5 hours at least; the crockpot all day. This kind of pork is taken well beyond the official done temp. You are breaking down connective tissue to allow the pulling thing. As for the olive oil rub, this cut should be fatty through-out so no need in my opinion for more oil. It is craving moist, slow, low heat.

    1 Reply
    1. re: torty

      I admit the olive oil was my idea, not my Dad's. :(

    2. Boston butt is a cut that benefits from braising. When I cook it, I do it low and slow in my crockpot for several hours until it falls apart on its own. Your dad's advice to add a little water and cover it was correct. Roasting just doesn't work for this cut.

      3 Replies
      1. re: northside food

        I normally do mine in the crock too. Very Easy, some seasoning, I like something other than just water, a little broth or wine or even beer makes a great cooking liquid. A bay leaf, s/p and I like a quartered onion for some flavor. I have a all purpose seasoning which has paprika, onion powder, garlic, etc. I like to rub that on the meat as well. Turn on hi and come back 8 hours later maybe 10 depending on the size. It will fall apart and great flavor and so easy.

        1. re: kchurchill5

          I do use the crock pot and coo meat in there frequently but everything starts to taste the same to me. Everything has a "cooked in a crock pot" taste that I can't really explain. I know that doesn't really make sense.

          1. re: Boudleaux

            True, I don't make too much, stock I enjoy making in it. Also a few things now and then. I just made a fruit and cheese stuffed pork tenderloin with a port wine glaze which was good but I use it mostly when I know I am working all day and don't have time.

            Braising in the oven is great and preferred if you have the time.

      2. (Started this reply and then lost it. Dang.)

        Okay, sweetpea, let's throw out everything your dear dad or anyone else ever told you about cooking meat :) With a pork shoulder, which I believe is close to a Boston butt, long and low is the answer, especially for a pulled pork, shredded kinda result. Here's arecipe of Will Owen's that's my total go-to:

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/582610

        Although it's for a much larger roast (and I've done much smaller) it's good reading. Read all his comments as he addresses internal temp. Because the first thing you're going to do is use *White-Out* on that so many minutes per pound concept. Internal temp is the only way to go, in my opinion. Also ignore USDA recs of 160 degrees and go with 145 max.

        I also regularly use my slow cooker for pork roasts for carnitas, etc. An indispensable tool in my kitchen.

        Also you might want to go to chow.com and look at some of their *basic* recipes.

        I cook pork tenderloin also in the oven, stovetop and the grill. Always go for that internal temp. Get yourself a good basic cookbook.

        I'm using a kind shotgun approach here but you're gonna love your next pork roast that's cooked to the right temp and using the right technique. Also search this board and you'll find MANY tips and recipes.

        Please cook something else --- SOON --- and report back, okay???

        6 Replies
        1. re: c oliver

          Um, you don't cook pork shoulder (arm or butt cuts) to only 145F - that's the correct temperature for leaner loin or leg roasts. Pork shoulder, like beef chuck, has to be cooked to a much higher temperature (long and slow) before the collagen begins to liquify. For pork shoulder, that's something more like 185F+ (a little higher for beef chuck). Until you get to that point, the meat will be tough (and, if you try to cook it too fast, the muscle will simply overcook and prevent the collagen from liquifying).

          1. re: Karl S

            Oh, yikes, I was getting ahead of myself! Definitely the pork shoulder goes WAY high --- 190 plus. I was thinking about tenderloins and just got ahead of myself. Thanks as usual, KS.

          2. re: c oliver

            Awwww...you called me Sweetpea. Thanks for being gentle but, yikes! Throw out everything my Dad told me about cooking meat?? Aggghhh!

            Thanks for the link. I will read it. I have 8 million cookbooks so that part is taken care of. Don't get me wrong, I cook. Regularly. I just have some kind of mental block about meat. I either cook the heck out of it or not enough.

            I'm going to keep trying but I thought I'd question my fellow hounds to figure out what I'm doing wrong. I want to understand.

            1. re: Boudleaux

              #1: buy a meat thermometer
              #2: ignore your dad
              #3: believe those 8 million cookbooks. They get published for a reason :)

              BTW, pork that has a little pink tinge (not the low and slow stuff - forgive my booboo) is generally what you're looking for. There's really no danger any more (for decades actually) of trichinosis in commercial pork.

              1. re: c oliver

                #1 I have a meat thermometer
                #2 No, I won't ignore my Dad. He's a great cook. I chose not to take all his advice (and even bought a different cut of meat than he suggested). Besides he was right.
                #3 I believe the cookbooks but that doesn't help with meat-cooking talent.

                Thanks for your help. :) I've learned a lot.

                1. re: Boudleaux

                  #1 - then use it religiously for cooking meat
                  #2 - No, he wasn't right. It wouldn't have been what you wanted even if you'd followed his directions. It might have been done but you wouldn't have been shredding THAT meat.
                  #3 - MY cookbooks give me almost all the help I need for cooking everything, including meat. So if your 8 mil don't, then get at least one that does.

          3. The original comment has been removed
            1. coliver is correct. You need to cook this baby low and slow. Some moisture is good. in fact, I would probably put what is left of the meat into the oven on a low temperature and let it continue to cook. Maybe with some liquid in the bottom of the pan so that the meat braises a bit.